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Dialogue On Non Duality With Mooji
Interview by Paula Marvelly
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  • PM.

    One question I really want to ask, and it’s one I generally tend to avoid in interviews, but in light of recent events in Japan – the earthquake, the tsunami, the radioactive leak – it is regarding human suffering.

    I meet a lot of teachers and writers, who tell me many wonderful things, and it’s a great privilege to hear them, but when I witness someone’s house and family being washed away on live TV, it made me think that when it’s crunch time, what does the teaching really mean, when life puts people’s backs up against the wall. How is the teaching relevant then?


    Then the teaching is very relevant; if it has entered your heart, then it is really relevant. If it has only been an intellectual enlightenment or conviction, then life will prove that it is insufficient, you see, because it is fine to entertain a kind of a ‘cappuccino state of consciousness’, when we can casually say, ‘nothing exists’, ‘there’s nobody here’, and so on; but when life itself becomes the testing ground of the knowledge that you claim you have, of the experience that you claim has confirmed your place as one who is awake to the truth, this will be the real test.

    Life is the testing ground. And as far as any kind of calamity is concerned, no one is exempt from the probability, the possibility, of something like this occurring. If you are a human being, if you live beyond the first few early years, you are likely, at some point in your life, to know someone who will have passed away, either unexpectedly, tragically or violently.

    Whatever it is, you will have some experience, which will be deeply impactful for you at an emotional level, which may trigger some deep questions concerning the meaning of your existence. Without these intense experiences, we don’t really turn inside to the real place of being. Quite often it is like that; that until some tragedy affects or threatens your attachment to family, friends or your ideals, unless these are challenged or crushed, we really cannot find the incentive to go deeper in our real being.

    Life will find the cracks in the wall of your own private philosophy; whatever is unsound will be exposed like this.

  • PM.

    I have been interested in this teaching for about twenty years or so. And it is interesting the way in which it goes for some seekers – either it appears to become an intense intellectual, coffee table, ‘cappuccino’ mind game or there’s a veneer of loveliness, which can be a denial of what of is really going on. To make the transition from the teaching being a mind game or it’s all lovely, to it being a reality in the heart, an absolute conviction, with the dropping of self-consciousness, how do we get past all these posturings?


    There are clearly some people whose intellect grasps this first; and even if the grasping is merely at an intellectual level, behind that there was already an subconscious search of something deeper. If it first opens up in the intellect, and so while looking for myself as a separate, private, autonomous entity nothing is found, that seeing or discovery, can be already the first taste of a miracle. It can be liberating at some level, but it’s not enough, it’s not quite there.

    It is maybe the first perforation through the screen or the personal façade, but it has to continue deepening, somehow refining itself in the heart. It has to do this. Otherwise, you find that there are people who are quite content to push it about – the ‘talk school’ – and in conversing with them, their words will not feel appropriate to what is really present in your heart. You may even find such a conversation or interaction deeply irritating because it doesn’t feel like it is coming from authentic seeing; but rather appear like a boasting or a kind of superiority.

    There are many banana skins on the way, you know, because it’s not like a snap of the fingers – one day I am like this and then suddenly, I am the Buddha, absolutely perfect! It’s not like that. It takes time for the mind to stabilize, to settle into this final understanding. It will keep on pushing up ‘weeds’ because quite often, after the impact of real seeing occurs, what we call vasanas come to the surface of mind. Vasanas are deep rooted tendencies that have been dormant, or at least lay hidden from our conscious knowing. Through the power of enquiring into the Self, these tendencies are brought to the surface to be expelled.

    Very often, there arises in the personalized consciousness, or ego, fierce resistance to feeling the force and presence of these vasanas, for they arise with much emotional charge and personal discomfort. Because of this, it is not uncommon for many seekers to suppress, create distractions from or cynically dismiss them as the mere play of consciousness/mind stuff rather than bringing them fully in the light of enquiry. Subsequently, at a deeper level, identity often remains in the form of a personal self and the chance to move beyond ego fixation is missed.

    In such cases, the ‘person’ will feel more real than the ‘presence-Self’

  • PM.

    Traditional Advaita Vedanta talks about liberation being in the mind. But you’re suggesting, and I know that Ramana Maharshi talks about this, that there is a heart centre, which is on the right-hand side of the chest, where the seeing of this takes place. Is that what you are talking about?


    What I am saying is that if we are talking about liberation in relation to the mind, I would say that liberation is from the mind. It is liberation from the domination, even hypnosis, that comes upon us owing to our conditioning and identification with the body-mind expression or functioning. And a belief in that identification gives rise to the sense of being a person, a private person, with its own autonomy, separate from the ‘phenomena’, which it perceives as ‘apart’ and ‘other’.

    So in one way, we say enlightenment is for the mind. We also have to bear in mind that what we are speaking about is not a rigid, tangible thing; so when we speak of mind, what is the measure of mind? Or we could say: where does mind stop and consciousness begin?

    We don’t necessarily need to get into that right now. I would rather say that for the most part, we are living under the spell of our conditioning, habits and belief systems. And all of it funnels down on top of the identity, the belief ‘I am this body’, ‘I am my name, conditioning and beliefs’ and so on, all these give rise to and strengthen the feeling of being a personal entity, you see. So that state of intense belief in personhood does not easily get transcended.

    Also, there can be a stubborn, yet unconscious or even involuntary attempt to protect that sense of personhood as the enquiry into the Self deepens and approaches firm conclusion or clarity. Very often, there arises, at this point, strong resistance to going beyond the sense of being the person we assume or imagine ourselves to be.

  • PM.

    So what’s the heart?


    When I say heart, I really mean the core or That which really Is; who we are in actuality, beyond our constructed identity. That which is, and is untouched by the body-mind feeling or the sense of a separate, personal me.

    The heart is not personal; it does not belong to anyone. When I say heart I mean the pure Self, pure awareness, what we really are—unborn. It is not heart in terms of an emotional centre; it is altogether beyond that.

  • PM.

    I know Ramana Maharshi talks about the fact there are two points in this journey: first, realization [kevala nirvikalpa samadhi] when the vasanas are still churning; and second, when there is total liberation [sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi]. Does this final state happen in the heart?


    Initially, there is a breaking open, a liberation from the influence and grip of the mindset, the mind state or mind culture. At that stage, even the body-mind is felt as a phenomenon that is observable; it’s now no longer the mind-self that is witnessing me, it is ‘formess’, the ‘What Is’, that is witnessing the mind.

    We are mostly troubled by thoughts that are personal. Many thought movements happen but they don’t register, they don’t linger, because we don’t have any real interest in them. And if you don’t have any interest in a thing, you don’t need to transcend it. It’s only if something is ‘biting-in’ that a struggle ensues and the question ‘who am I and what is this?’ can come to life for a genuine seeker of truth. Only then will the process of transcendence be experienced.

    But mostly we are not troubled by thoughts we have no interest in; it is only when there is interest and desire that we become troubled. So therein lies the secret: finding the one to whom the thoughts are occurring, who has some relationship with those thoughts. Such a one cannot be said of the pure observer, who must be impersonal, beyond content. So if and when that is seen, it will be a very important point of seeing because it releases one from the sense that there is a ‘me’ as an actual, tangible entity being attacked by life, memory, thought, or emotion.

    That ‘me’, although it feels intimate, is now recognized to be a phenomenon because it is observable. When this is recognized profoundly, what remains as the observing is non-personal, or a sort of impersonal beingness/state. And it’s that place of the impersonal observing that is called the state of liberation.

    However, even after a state of awakening occurs, there often continues to linger the habit of identifying oneself as a person. If this delusion is not checked it will tend to sprout seeds that distract or hypnotize the beingness into the state of mortality. The only way out of that is to abide as the witness-Self rather than the ‘I-me’. Like this, those seeds will reduce in power for lack of fuel and will wither and pass way.

    So even after this first stage where one comes to an understanding that I am not this phenomenal body, it is only then that the vasana energies are released with heightened power. Prior to that, it is almost as if the vasanas themselves don’t need to release their power, because we are already co-operating nicely under a spell, the sleep-waking state. It is as if the conditioning, the belief: I am a person, I am this body-mind, is sufficient to keep us unaware of the Self and in a state of sludge-like delusion. It is only when you are waking up out of the sleep of the body-mind identity that you begin to feel the glue of the body-mind state in its play as vasanas.

    So when we are coming out of that sleep state (ignorance), through the grace and power of satsang, we start to feel, discern and recognize the dormant, egoic energies and impressions that were hidden while we remained identified as persons. As they come into the light of recognition, they will create the sense of a tsunami inside the body mind.

    But even then, there is the power within you to keep observing them, to know that they too are phenomenal. It will not be easy, initially, because here is where the stored power of identity has fermented and they will arise with much force.

    It will take some effort In the beginning to observe them with detachment, without being pulled into the spell of identity with them. But that season also passes.

  • PM.

    How does one practise the seeing of this? Ramana Maharshi talks about two ways – either Self-Enquiry or surrender. How does one practise Self-Enquiry? I love the teachings or Ramana Maharshi but if I say Who am I? Who am I?, I get nothing!


    I can show you a simple way. We can start by acknowledging that whatever I perceive, whether it be thought or some sensation, emotion, or indeed any phenomenon, that all are appearing inside my own consciousness. None of it is stable; it appears and disappears. I am the observer and observing of it, or more precisely, it is observed.

    Therefore, if it is observed, I cannot truthfully say that I am that. I can say that maybe it has some connection to myself, depending upon the strength of my interest in it. The senses are still carrying out their functioning according to their own laws and without any deliberate intention on my part – seeing happens, hearing happens, tasting happens, all of this happens spontaneously.

    Let’s take an example: this room filled with objects can offer an opportunity for an engagement of our senses and attention, yet, we are sitting here undistracted. Why? Because we have no particular interest in these objects. So although they are available for sensory perception, they are not intruding upon our state of peace because we have no interest in them.

    So the very fact that there is seeing or perceiving of the world doesn’t amount to a distraction; the only time that the distraction comes in is if there is interest in a particular object and one strikes up a relationship with it, thus forming a kind of link or intimacy with it. Then it becomes part of our ‘family’ or sense of self.

    This is already a testimony to the brilliance of your consciousness, that without any effort, it rests in a state of easy attention or neutrality. So whatever we perceive, there are only appearances in consciousness and they are observed to come and go. And there is the witnessing of the coming and going of them, you see. Without any particular effort, the traffic of sensations moves through, whether as thought or emotion before coming to rest or dissolve into nothingness.

    I ask sometimes, has anything ever come and stayed? Everything is coming and going. Even my self-remembrance in terms of any sort of data is not permanently with me; it’s just a psychic image in the imagination or memory.

  • PM.

    Certainly, when my attention is on something, there is no perception of myself.


    Yes, but the background of that is an intuitive sense of presence. There is a sense I exist; not the words, ‘I exist’, but the intuitive feeling of existence. You know you are. You don’t have to keep on saying that you are. It is witnessed in a silent and effortless way. It must be there first before perception of anything else can arise; everything is only experienced in respect to who or what I believe myself to be.

    In the same sense, you don’t walk around thinking ‘I am Paula’, ‘I am Paula’, ‘I am Paula’; you’re not having to constantly remember that. But if someone calls you Susan, you say, 'I’m not Susan, I’m Paula.' It takes no time at all to say this. In the same way, the consciousness is here but we are not consciously focused on that natural Self-consciousness; we just have that sense of being, and from that sense of being, all perceptions of ‘otherness’ can happen, you see.

    Back to the point you made about the enquiry – everything is coming and going in the field of perception. Their apparent presence is dependent on your being able to witness them. All of them are reporting to you at some level and are only in accordance with what your consciousness accepts.

    There is a sense of the seeing or the perceiving of the world – the personal and outer world – which is being reported to some intelligence that is right here, which is synonymous with the feeling ‘I am’. So the information can keep on appearing from one to ten thousand sensations a day but the perceiver is still only one.

    If I am the perceiver of all this, then I ask another question: can this perceiver itself be perceived? This is really the question: Who I am? The one who is perceiving the sense ‘I am’, who is the storyteller of the world, the one who is ‘having’ experiences and reporting them. So this question, ‘Who am I?’, who or what is perceiving that. Can that one also be perceived? This question put merely in a verbal or mental way will be seen immediately to be insufficient; it is just having the effect of another concept. Therefore, if the question cannot be answered by a mental or intellectual answer to any satisfaction, what is the purpose of the question?

    So the question must be to trigger an introspection that brings to you an experience of seeing/being, in order to clarify, verify and grasp its intention. You must be fully inside your seeing and trust your observing and discerning power, you see. This is the question. In fact, this is putting Self-enquiry in a nutshell for me. To find out if the seer is seeable – is it only another phenomenon and if it is another phenomenon, what is witnessing that phenomenon? This is not an endless riddle or an infinite regress, which is one way in which the mind would present it in order to avoid the impact of real finding, real discovery.

  • PM.

    Self-enquiry is like the stick used to stir the funeral pyre. It’s a conundrum in many ways but this seeing is available for everyone. The Neo Advaita approach suggests that a spontaneous seeing is only something that happens to a handful of select people, for some inexplicable reason.


    ‘Awakening will only happen to the chosen few’ is a suffocating concept. I would rather remind you that you are That already. You are already that which you are searching for. Find out who the seeker is; you are already That.

    Even if you believe you are a person, that person is an aspect of consciousness. And if consciousness puts that urge as a personal modification in search of itself, it’s on to something and it will continue to refine itself and evolve in that expression of consciousness, until it is at a place where it can perceive more directly its non-phenomenal, imageless Self Being.

    You cannot say that, 'unless this thing happens,' as if it’s some kind of lottery, in the meantime 'let’s forget about everything and carry on with our lives.' I think that is a very poor and untrue attitude.

  • PM.

    I strongly feel that the truth is for all, if you really want it. But it’s an endless debate, isn’t it.


    Well, that would be the sadness if it were an endless debate because surely if it were a debate, it must be heading for some conclusion, to come to some place of rest. Otherwise, this is just a kind of conceptual masturbation.

  • PM.

    As we were saying at the very beginning of our conversation, rather than the search for authentic seeing being some form of 'conceptual masturbation', it has to be something that is relevant and real. It’s very easy to go to satsang, read nice books and have lovely chats over a cup of tea. But most people’s lives are full of trauma, drama, which can often be self-induced.


    It’s not that life is that, but that life is being experienced like that, which is always due to something else, something personal. Someone was speaking to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj; he said, 'Maharaj, I listen to you and I am touched by what you say, but if I am honest, in my life, I am always experiencing suffering.' Sri Maharaj says, 'No it’s not true, you are not experiencing suffering, you are suffering your experiencing.'

    For this guy, this is how life felt, that’s how life was being viewed from his then present state of who he took himself to be. There is one Earth but billions of worlds. In each body-mind, there is a world constructed around and sprouting from conditioning and identity. And that world is being superimposed upon the basic fundamental, elemental world, the cosmic Earth.

    And so, each person’s view is very unique and very private; we share some cultural symbols together, making it possible for an exchange because we are sharing some similarities up to a point. But we hold onto that unique conditioning; life has to squeeze you beyond that conditioning because often, belief and identity create the breeding ground for ignorance, toil and suffering.

    Your natural alignment is with the cosmic unfolding, which is one with every sentient being. However, as long as we are functioning from the place of our projected intentions, we cannot be in the state of oneness with the universal.

    Nevertheless, from a higher standpoint, even such disharmony is a part of total harmony; even apparent conflict is a part of total play of consciousness. It’s just the way that consciousness plays in its diversity, because I don’t believe that anything can surprise or step out of the supreme being.

    All of these things are the surface play of waves on the great ocean. If we are living on the level of this analogy, this metaphor of waves, then nothing here is stable or consistent. It’s as though we want to solidify, or make permanent, what is by its very nature impermanent.

    Our aspirations and our dreams are fantasies; they are not based on truth, on what is innermost in ourselves. I think this is the call of the human being, who has the capacity above all other species on the earth to really contemplate themselves in this way, to go beyond the surface conditioning to the deeper level and reality of consciousness, from where perceiving the world is a casual past time.

    Perceiving the world personally is very costly to the consciousness, for while under the spell of personal identity, we fall easily into the realm of delusion, unaware of our timeless perfection as awareness. When we realize our non-phenomenal, imageless Self, suffering ends. The game changes.

  • PM.

    How does the game change when you know who you are?


    When you know who you are, you are no longer full of desires; you begin to see that without personal intention, there is an order, there is a spontaneous and benevolent power behind the unfolding play of the world. There is a recognition of the Supreme power that cares for life.

    You would see that whatever you were pushing against flows in an effortless harmony unrecognized by most, who, out of fear and ignorance pull their ‘parachute’ too early. You begin to see these things: 'My God, look at that!' It’s still the same Earth – the sky, the flowers, the trees, the cars, the people – but the perceiver who was reacting from a personal standpoint was more getting in the way of a deeper seeing, which is full of grace, full of beauty, and full of harmony and peace.

    The very nature of the person is full of angst, impatience, desire, and personal compulsion to get things to suit their projections, but it just doesn’t work. It never really worked.

  • PM.

    You talk about identity and how deep it goes. We wake up in the morning and then there’s that flash of anxiety, and not feeling comfortable with oneself.


    Yes. You know, it has to be like this because unless it feels this way, you don’t come out of it. If you were feeling comfortable with your delusion, then you would stand no chance. Life has to hurt until you find a way out of that unnecessary suffering.

    This seemingly ongoing presence of the heaviness of being a person can change just like this – a twist of consciousness, real understanding awakens and pure seeing from the position of the undivided Self is established firmly. It is possible that in an instant, perhaps through a blend of grace and urge, which is also grace, a change leading to liberation occur. It really does.

  • PM.

    Do you think having a teacher is necessary, having had one yourself [Papaji]?


    Yes, having a teacher is vital. It’s only arrogance to feel I don’t need one. Make use of one until you go beyond the need for help. A true teacher doesn’t want anything from you, even your devotion. They are just satisfied that you come with an authentic attitude or approach and are searching only for what is true.

    In that way, they have power and are fully available because there is sheer joy in imparting true guidance to an authentic seeker. It is a mistake a lot of people in the West make, because they have so many ill-conceived ideas about teachers and gurus. But it is often arrogance that is posing through such attitudes.

  • PM.

    But in some ways, that is because there has been so much abuse and lack of authenticity on the part of the teacher.


    There’s a lot of ‘ingenuineness’ on the part of some teachers just as there is ‘ingenuineness’ on the part of the students. If you want to have a great answer, then you need to have a great question. People have a lot of hidden agendas inside. They come very sheepishly, appear very humbly, but many have a wolf behind them. So life will direct them to the right guru that reflects a little bit of who they are until they find the true path or recognition.

    It’s perfect, actually. You’ll get the exact guru you need in that moment. If there’s a lot of funny business going on in your ego mind, you’re going to find a guru with at least little funny business going on in them too.

    Papaji was so great, his presence and dharma, so unsparing. Many Westerners would come with full-on egos and somehow, in his presence, they got crushed, vapourised. I don’t think he saw egos; the ones with the clean, clear eyes do not see impurity, they just see that you are the Self. But because there is a sense of impurity in your own mind, then that impurity is pulled out into the light and this exposure can make you feel very vulnerable.

    The whole part of the process of healing is the sheer power and presence of their clarity, which will enable what is hidden to be brought into the light and burnt. A true teacher has real love for you; not a personal love, but an impersonal intimacy because he knows you are the Self.

    [Interview conducted Spring 2011]


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About Mooji

Anthony Paul Moo-Young, known as Mooji, was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. In 1969, he moved to the UK and is presently living in Brixton, London. Anthony worked in London's 'West end' as a street portrait artist for many years, then as a painter and a stained glass artist, and later as a teacher at Brixton College. For a long time, he was well known as Tony Moo, but is now affectionately known as Mooji by the many seekers and friends who visit him.

Mooji is a direct disciple of Sri Harilal Poonja. Over the last eight years, Mooji has been travelling to Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, North America, Argentina, Brasil, India, where he conducts satsang meetings, intensives and retreats.

Website: mooji.org